RICHMOND, Indiana – The Earlham College baseball team clinched its first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) regular season title in program history on Saturday, defeating Hanover College 6-0 at Randal R. Sadler Stadium.
"I'm at a loss for words right now," head coach Steve Sakosits said. "It's been a goal of ours to win the HCAC ever since I arrived at Earlham."
Earlham opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning when senior Eric Elkus launched a solo home run over the right field wall. Two innings later, Elkus went yard again, lifting a two-run blast to left field and giving the Quakers a 3-0 lead.
After the Panthers failed to score in the top of the sixth, Earlham put together three runs on four hits in the bottom of the sixth to take a 6-0 advantage. Hanover did get runners to second and third with one out in the eighth, but senior pitcher Howie Smith got out of the jam with a strikeout and a groundout.
Smith improved to 8-3 with the win, pitching his fourth consecutive complete game. The Hamilton, Ohio, native tallied five strikeouts and walked no one while scattering eight hits.
Tanner Simpson took the loss for the Panthers allowing six earned runs in six innings pitched.
Earlham had 13 hits as a team including the two home runs from Elkus. Senior Nate Lynch also had two hits, and his single in the bottom of the sixth broke a tie from Jake Carr (2007-10) for the most hits in program history. Lynch, who already holds program records for career runs and stolen bases, is now the all-time hits king with 182 base hits.
The win improves the Quakers' overall record to 24-12, but more importantly gives Earlham a 19-6 conference mark. With losses by both Manchester University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Saturday, the best either of those teams can finish is 18-9 with two games remaining.
"We've wanted to host the conference tournament at Earlham, and now we will get to do that," said Sakosits. "We've got more work to do, but the conference tournament is going to be at Sadler Stadium, and that's pretty cool."
The conference title win marks the first time the Quakers' baseball program has won a conference championship since winning the Collegiate Athletic Conference in 1989. Earlham will conclude its regular season with a doubleheader against Hanover tomorrow (Sunday) beginning at noon. The Quakers will then host the HCAC Tournament scheduled to begin on Thursday next week.